Possible Leak At Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Feb 15, 2013

RICHLAND, Wash. – A tank full of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington may be leaking. Friday the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors say liquid levels in an underground radioactive waste tank are going down.

The single-hulled tank is called T-111. It’s located in central Hanford in a group of tanks called T-farm. The Department of Energy reports the rate of loss is about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid a year.

An Energy spokeswoman named Lori Gamache says the agency isn’t sure what’s causing the drop in levels, but a plan is being formed on what to do next.

“So we have equipment that’s in the tank that monitors the levels," she explains. "And this week we went in and did some visual inspections and confirmed that the equipment was working correctly. And the equipment was showing there was a level decrease in this tank.”

In a press conference this afternoon, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the news "very disturbing."

Tank T-111 is a 530,000-gallon capacity underground storage tank that was put into service in 1945. The tank currently contains approximately 447,000 gallons of radioactive sludge.

There are 177 aging underground tanks at Hanford. That’s the leftovers from producing plutonium during WWII and the Cold War.